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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"But speak, at all events," said the princess, out of patience; "speak!"

"I?"

"Of course; it is quite clear you are not of my opinion, and that you
have something to say."

"I have only one thing to say, Madame."

"Name it!"

"That I do not understand a single word of what you have just been
telling me."

"What! - you do not understand a single word about M. de Guiche's quarrel
with M. de Wardes," exclaimed the princess, almost out of temper.

Manicamp remained silent.

"A quarrel," she continued, "which arose out of a conversation scandalous
in its tone and purport, and more or less well founded, respecting the
virtue of a certain lady."

"Ah! of a certain lady, - this is quite another thing," said Manicamp.

"You begin to understand, do you not?"

"Your highness will excuse me, but I dare not - "

"You dare not," said Madame, exasperated; "very well, then, wait one
moment, I will dare."

"Madame, Madame!" exclaimed Manicamp, as if in great dismay, "be careful
of what you are going to say."

"It would seem, monsieur, that, if I happened to be a man, you would
challenge me, notwithstanding his majesty's edicts, as Monsieur de Guiche
challenged M. de Wardes; and that, too, on account of the virtue of
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Of Mademoiselle de la Valliere!" exclaimed Manicamp, starting backwards,
as if that was the very last name he expected to hear pronounced.

"What makes you start in that manner, Monsieur de Manicamp?" said Madame,
ironically; "do you mean to say you would be impertinent enough to
suspect that young lady's honor?"

"Madame, in the whole course of this affair there has not been the
slightest question of Mademoiselle de la Valliere's honor."

"What! when two men have almost blown each other's brains out on a
woman's behalf, do you mean to say she has had nothing to do with the
affair, and that her name has not been called in question at all?  I did
not think you so good a courtier, Monsieur de Manicamp."

"Pray forgive me, Madame," said the young man, "but we are very far from
understanding one another.  You do me the honor to speak one language
while I am speaking altogether another."

"I beg your pardon, but I do not understand your meaning."

"Forgive me, then; but I fancied I understood your highness to remark
that De Guiche and De Wardes had fought on Mademoiselle de la Valliere's
account?"

"Certainly."

"On account of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, I think you said?" repeated
Manicamp.

"I do not say that M. de Guiche personally took an interest in
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, but I say that he did so as representing or
acting on behalf of another."

"On behalf of another?"

"Come, do not always assume such a bewildered look.  Does not every one
here know that M. de Bragelonne is affianced to Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and that before he went on the mission with which the king
intrusted him, he charged his friend M. de Guiche to watch over that
interesting young lady?"

"There is nothing more for me to say, then.  Your highness is well-
informed."

"Of everything.  I beg you to understand that clearly."

Manicamp began to laugh, which almost exasperated the princess, who was
not, as we know, of a very patient disposition.

"Madame," resumed the discreet Manicamp, saluting the princess, "let us
bury this affair altogether in forgetfulness, for it will probably never
be quite cleared up."

"Oh, as far as that goes there is nothing more to do, and the information
is complete.  The king will learn that M. de Guiche has taken up the
cause of this little adventuress, who gives herself all the airs of a
grand lady; he will learn that Monsieur de Bragelonne, having nominated
his friend M. de Guiche his guardian-in-ordinary, the latter immediately
fastened, as he was required to do, upon the Marquis de Wardes, who
ventured to trench upon his privileges.  Moreover, you cannot pretend to
deny, Monsieur Manicamp - you who know everything so well - that the king
on his side casts a longing eye upon this famous treasure, and that he
will bear no slight grudge against M. de Guiche for constituting himself
its defender.  Are you sufficiently well informed now, or do you require
anything further?  If so, speak, monsieur."

"No, Madame, there is nothing more I wish to know."

"Learn, however - for you ought to know it, Monsieur de Manicamp - learn
that his majesty's indignation will be followed by terrible
consequences.  In princes of a similar temperament to that of his
majesty, the passion which jealousy causes sweeps down like a whirlwind."

"Which you will temper, Madame."

"I!" exclaimed the princess, with a gesture of indescribable irony; "I!
and by what title, may I ask?"

"Because you detest injustice, Madame."

"And according to your account, then, it would be an injustice to prevent
the king arranging his love affairs as he pleases."

"You will intercede, however, in M. de Guiche's favor?"

"You are mad, monsieur," said the princess, in a haughty tone of voice.

"On the contrary, I am in the most perfect possession of my senses; and I
repeat, you will defend M. de Guiche before the king."

"Why should I?"

"Because the cause of M. de Guiche is your own, Madame," said Manicamp,
with ardor kindling in his eyes.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, Madame, that, with respect to the defense which Monsieur de
Guiche undertook in M. de Bragelonne's absence, I am surprised that your
highness has not detected a pretext in La Valliere's name having been
brought forward."

"A pretext?  But a pretext for what?" repeated the princess,
hesitatingly, for Manicamp's steady look had just revealed something of
the truth to her.

"I trust, Madame," said the young man, "I have said sufficient to induce
your highness not to overwhelm before his majesty my poor friend, De
Guiche, against whom all the malevolence of a party bitterly opposed to
your own will now be directed."

"You mean, on the contrary, I suppose, that all those who have no great
affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and even, perhaps, a few of
those who have some regard for her, will be angry with the comte?"

"Oh, Madame! why will you push your obstinacy to such an extent, and
refuse to open your ears and listen to the counsel of one whose devotion
to you is unbounded?  Must I expose myself to the risk of your
displeasure, - am I really to be called upon to name, contrary to my own
wish, the person who was the real cause of this quarrel?"

"The person?" said Madame, blushing.

"Must I," continued Manicamp, "tell you how poor De Guiche became
irritated, furious, exasperated beyond all control, at the different
rumors now being circulated about this person?  Must I, if you persist in
this willful blindness, and if respect should continue to prevent me
naming her, - must I, I repeat, recall to your recollection the various
scenes which Monsieur had with the Duke of Buckingham, and the
insinuations which were reported respecting the duke's exile?  Must I
remind you of the anxious care the comte always took in his efforts to
please, to watch, to protect that person for whom alone he lives, - for
whom alone he breathes?  Well!  I will do so; and when I shall have made
you recall all the particulars I refer to, you will perhaps understand
how it happened that the comte, having lost all control over himself, and
having been for some time past almost harassed to death by De Wardes,
became, at the first disrespectful expression which the latter pronounced
respecting the person in question, inflamed with passion, and panted only
for an opportunity of avenging the affront."

The princess concealed her face with her hands.  "Monsieur, monsieur!"
she exclaimed; "do you know what you are saying, and to whom you are
speaking?"

"And so, Madame," pursued Manicamp, as if he had not heard the
exclamations of the princess, "nothing will astonish you any longer, -
neither the comte's ardor in seeking the quarrel, nor his wonderful
address in transferring it to an quarter foreign to your own personal
interests.  That latter circumstance was, indeed, a marvelous instance of
tact and perfect coolness, and if the person in whose behalf the comte so
fought and shed his blood does, in reality, owe some gratitude to the
poor wounded sufferer, it is not on account of the blood he has shed, or
the agony he has suffered, but for the steps he has taken to preserve
from comment or reflection an honor which is more precious to him than
his own."

"Oh!" cried Madame, as if she had been alone, "is it possible the quarrel
was on my account!"

Manicamp felt he could now breathe for a moment - and gallantly had he
won the right to do so.  Madame, on her side, remained for some time
plunged in a painful reverie.  Her agitation could be seen by her quick
respiration, by her drooping eyelids, by the frequency with which she
pressed her hand upon her heart.  But, in her, coquetry was not so much a
passive quality, as, on the contrary, a fire which sought for fuel to
maintain itself, finding anywhere and everywhere what it required.

"If it be as you assert," she said, "the comte will have obliged two
persons at the same time; for Monsieur de Bragelonne also owes a deep
debt of gratitude to M. de Guiche - and with far greater reason, indeed,
because everywhere, and on every occasion, Mademoiselle de la Valliere
will be regarded as having been defended by this generous champion."

Manicamp perceived that there still remained some lingering doubt in the
princess's heart.  "A truly admirable service, indeed," he said, "is the
one he has rendered to Mademoiselle de la Valliere!  A truly admirable
service to M. de Bragelonne!  The duel has created a sensation which, in
some respects, casts a dishonorable suspicion upon that young girl; a
sensation, indeed, which will embroil her with the vicomte.  The
consequence is that De Wardes's pistol-bullet has had three results
instead of one; it destroys at the same time the honor of a woman, the
happiness of a man, and, perhaps, it has wounded to death one of the best

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